The news out of St. Louis about the possibility of the St. Louis Cardinals buying a low-power AM station and taking their broadcasts off KMOX has understandably upset long-time fans. As with everything, it appears the decision is going to come down to money. I won't go into detail about that.
The one constant about listening to Cardinal games on the radio, which I have done since 1962 has been KMOX. If you were somewhere where there wasn't a local station that carried the game at night, you knew you could flip the dial to 1120 and there it was.
That situation is particularly a problem in Joplin where the low-powered WMBH does not always come in well at night and you are lucky if you can pick up the Monett and Springfield FM stations that carry the games.
I guess there is always internet and satellite radio, but there are a lot of fans, especially older ones, who are not going to have access to those venues.
Hopefully, something can be worked out.
Writing about this reminded me of the great memories I have had listening to Cardinal games over the years, whether it be on KMOX, KTXR in Springfield, WMBH or in the 1960s, KOAM (now KKOW) in Pittsburg.
The games were background to my homework, my work, my reading, my writing, just about anything I was doing and have been for 43 years. As a six-year-old, I can still recall when my dad, Bill Turner, first introduced me to baseball on radio.
The Cardinals, then featuring Stan Musial in his next-to-last year, won the first game I listened to on a home run by catcher Gene Oliver. I was hooked. The next year, I listened as the Cardinals made a late run to try to win a pennant for Musial in his last year, but fell just short as the Dodgers clinched the pennant on the final day of the season.
Then came 1964. That was the year I listened to the unmatched team of Harry Caray and Jack Buck as they broadcast my first World Series championship. In June, I wondered how could the Cardinals trade a great pitcher like Ernie Broglio for this Lou Brock character? I soon found out why that trade was made as he stole base after base.
It still did not seem like the Cardinals were going to reach the World Series (division playoffs were not added until 1969). With 11 games left, they were six games behind Philadelphia, but Phillies manager Gene Mauch panicked and began pitching his two best starters, Jim Bunning (now the U. S. senator from Kentucky) and Chris Short every other day, the Phillies collapsed and when the final day arrived, three teams, the Cardinals, Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds had a chance to go to the World Series.
I can still remember Harry Caray shouting over and over "The Cardinals win the pennant, the Cardinals win the pennant," after the last game of the season ended. I was in the kitchen at my home in Newtonia in front of a small blue and white radio.
Then when the Cardinals won the World Series over the fearsome New York Yankees with great pitching from Bob Gibson and home runs from Tim McCarver, Mike Shannon, and a grand slam by Alba's Kenny Boyer, well, it just couldn't get any better than that.
I found out the next year, as the Cardinals slipped to sixth place, that your team didn't always have winning seasons, but I kept on listening.
It wasn't always the big, important games that lingered in my memory. For some reason, I still remember a game from 1966 when the Cardinals played the Braves, who had just moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. The Braves jumped out to a 7-0 lead, primarily on a grand slam by catcher Joe Torre, who five years later would win the National League Most Valuable Player award as a Cardinal. It was a rainy night and there was some static coming in on the radio, but I kept listening even though my team was down by seven runs.
Manager Red Schoendienst's Cards fought back to tie the game at 7-7, then in the bottom of the ninth, Orlando Cepeda, who had just been acquired on May 8, 1966 (it's amazing how those things stay in the memory) for pitcher Ray Sadecki, doubled, Mike Shannon sacrificed him to third, and the Cardinals' new third baseman Charlie Smith (how could they get rid of Ken Boyer for this guy) singled to score the winning run. After that game, I never gave up on the Cardinals no matter how far they were behind.
Last night, as I watched the Cardinal game on Fox Sports Midwest, I was stunned to hear that it had been exactly 38 years since that day in 1967 when Pirate outfielder Roberto Clemente lined a base hit off Bob Gibson's leg. Gibson stayed in the game, retired the side, then had to leave and it turned out he had pitched the rest of the inning on a broken leg. Despite the absence of Gibson most of the rest of the season, the Cardinals ran away with pennant in 1967 and then played the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
Back then, Series games were played in the daytime. One of my fondest memories from that year was sitting in the back of Mrs. Jean Rowe's classroom, listening to the World Series games on a little black transistor radio she had brought to school for that express purpose. The Cardinals won that World Series, too, beating the Boston Red Sox four games to three. The next year they weren't as lucky falling in seven games to Mickey Lolich and the Detroit Tigers. My favorite memory of that Series was a television one, sitting with Alan Oxendine, Danny Hilton, and Larry Wheeler in the back of Gum's Store after school watching as Gibson set a World Series record by striking out 17 Tigers in game one.
1969 was the last year for the great team of Harry Caray and Jack Buck. Caray was fired after the season for reasons that were never clear. The 1970s were trying for Cardinals fans as they only occasionally competed and never reached the World Series. Torre, Brock, and Gibson were the main reasons to listen, and I kept listening. After a kidney ailment forced Mike Shannon to retire from the playing field, he moved into the broadcasting booth and frankly, he was terrible, but after a few years he grew into the position and I came to appreciate Jack Buck and Mike Shannon as much as I had appreciated Caray and Buck.
I could go on forever, and it seems like I have. Through the Whitey Herzog years of the 1980s and the Tony LaRussa-led teams since 1996, the Cardinals have continued to provide entertainment for me and thousands of fans. Who could forget the first game of the LaRussa era, when the Cardinals held a one-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth and called, for the first time, on their new closer, future Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley to get the final out. One pitch, the batter connected and the ball sailed...almost out of the park...but not quite. It's funny. That was only nine years ago, but I don't remember who hit the ball or who caught it. Maybe I didn't listen quite as attentively to the radio as I did in the days when I had to put up with static crackling through the airwaves.
I guess it's the memories of your youth that stay with you.